June Atkinson, former superintendent of public instruction, and Bob Orr, former state Supreme Court justice, will join the UNC Institute of Politics as visiting fellows this spring.
The two will lead student seminars and work with students during weekly office hours. Atkinson will lead a series focused on the future of public education, while Orr will focus on the importance of ethical and moral behavior in the context of politics and public service.
The Institute of Politics was launched last year at UNC as a student-run program meant to engage undergraduates and encourage them to pursue careers in public service. The group is nonpartisan and seeks to bring in speakers from across the political spectrum.
Atkinson is a Democrat and Orr is a Republican. Atkinson has had a long career in education, including three terms as state superintendent. She was first elected in 2004 and lost in 2016 to Republican Mark Johnson. She earned degrees in education from Radford University, Virginia Tech and N.C. State University.
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Orr was elected to the state’s highest court in 1994. He previously served on the N.C. Court of Appeals. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from UNC. He ran for governor of North Carolina in 2008, losing in the primary to Pat McCrory.
“The Fellows Program provides Carolina students with a forum for consistent engagement with North Carolina’s best and brightest public servants. This cohort of Fellows will offer our students unparalleled insights into the world of politics and how to improve lives through public policy,” said the institute’s executive director, UNC senior Tanner Glenn.
The institute hosts a variety of activities, including Civics in the Triangle, a program that places undergraduates in elementary- and middle-school classrooms to teach civics. It also publishes a biannual political journal and runs an internship program for students. Harvard University, the University of Chicago and Georgetown University have launched similar programs.